Bronx mentality was a blessing and curse for Sean Williams on reality TV show ‘Snake in the Grass’

Snake in the Grass – Season 1
Bronxite Sean Williams, left, and fellow contestant John Gaber on a zipline during their appearance on USA Network’s “Snake in the Grass.”
Photo Chase Bjornson/Peacock

What happens when you drop a Bronxite into the jungle with a snake? And not the long slimy kind: something worse.

Sean Williams, who grew up near Yankee Stadium — where he said the stadium’s “do do do do do do” was his lullaby as a kid — told the Bronx Times his Bronx upbringing came through as both a blessing and a curse on the USA Network’s new competitive reality series “Snake in the Grass,” which premiered on Aug. 1 and airs 11 p.m. on Mondays. The TV show, which can be watched online through various providers, centers on finding out who the human “snake” is — someone assigned to discretely undermine contestants’ efforts as they work toward a series of challenges in the Costa Rican wilderness for 36 hours.

Hosted by radio and television personality Bobby Bones, each episode features a team of four contestants, including the planted saboteur trying to discretely prevent players from winning challenges and reaching clues that could reveal the snake’s identity. If three members can correctly identify who the snake is, they get $100,000. If they’re wrong, the snake gets it.

You won’t find out who the snake is here, but there are spoilers ahead.

Williams co-stars in the very first episode of the series,  where his cohort faces two physical challenges, one that involves a zipline over a canyon and another involving digging through piles of rocks. But the biggest challenge is trusting each other — and knowing who to trust.

Williams, a fitness and mixed martial arts coach and Reserve Marine, told the Bronx Times that when he learned the show had a snake involved, his Bronx instincts — of being blunt while keeping a distance to figure people out instead of immediately befriending, trusting or opening up to new people — kicked in. The 36-year-old also credited his New York City upbringing for knowing how to focus on the task at hand and be quick on his feet.

“The good part of being raised in the Bronx is that you get good intuition, you know when people are being fake,” he said. “You see a lot faster than most people. The bad is that you know, you kinda have that mentality where you know, I’m not going to be your friend off the bat. And in the beginning, I’m not going to be nice. … I’m not going to fake it.”

While Williams wasn’t the first one to be accused of being the snake, things don’t bode well for him when other contestants notice he didn’t have much to say when asked him who he thought the snake was. And sleeping separately in a hammock didn’t help.

Being raised in the Bronx, Williams doesn’t make friends right off the bat. He has to feel people out first, he said. But once he makes a friend, they’re his friend for life.

“Like all my friends from high school, they’re my friends for life until I’m dead,” he said. “But that wasn’t an instant thing. It’s like I’ve gotta get to know you.”

There’s only so much you can feel out in 36 hours, however.

On top of his standoffishness, Williams contributed to the failure of the first challenge, which he said he was overconfident going into. Tasked with traversing a zipline over a canyon with fellow contestant John Gaber to retrieve heavy boxes from one side of the line and bringing them back to their two teammates on solid ground, Williams had trouble loosening the clasp on the clip locking him in place, getting stuck and leaving Gaber to carry the container alone with one hand. Without Williams’ help, the pressure mounted on Gaber, who ended up dropping two of the three boxes. The struggle cost the team a clue about the snake.

The Bronxite pulled himself together — at least physically — finding the next clue at the campsite and then outperforming his colleagues in the final challenge. And although his efforts led to victory for another clue, he butted heads with a teammate who had a different strategy.

Ultimately, his endeavors weren’t enough to gain the trust of his peers, who all ultimately stuck with the false accusation that he was the snake, leading to victory for the actual snake.

That being said, Williams was right in the end about who the snake actually was — the one name he told cameras early on he was leaning toward. And though he veered from the right guess when another teammate tested his nerves, his Bronx-bred intuition ultimately brought him to the right answer.

If only his teammates trusted him and chose correctly, Williams said he would have used his share of the money to pursue a longtime dream of opening a martial arts gym in the Bronx with his high school friends.

The Bronx native now lives in Los Angeles — he moved across the country at age 23 when stationed in California for the Marines — but he didn’t end up on the show because he has “the Hollywood bug,” he said.

Williams decided he wanted to pursue fitness modeling on the side, and what he calls an “overly zealous” friend wanted to get him exposure. While being on TV isn’t what Williams had in mind, he liked that the show was physically active.

“It’s kind of like I got thrown into the fire just because I said ‘Hey, I want to try something,'” he said. ” And my friend is like, ‘Cool,’ and shoves me off the cliff.”

Williams would be interested in another on-screen appearance if there was a martial arts or fitness element, and has had dreams of becoming a fight choreographer, he said.

He noted that comedian Kevin Hart made fun of the show, and in New York fashion, loved it — just as Williams said he loved being on the show.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I can’t complain. It was dope.”

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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